Whose decline? Not Khojkī’s. Rethinking Khojkī’s decline: evidence of continued use of Khojkī script in Sindh, Pakistan

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Conference Proceeding

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Who amongst the scholars of Ismāʿīlī studies will deny the lack of academic attention that the Satpanth Ismāʿīlī tradition has remained subject to? Many aspects of this tradition hitherto remain little explored. This study deals with one such understudied but key aspect of the Satpanth Ismāʿīlī tradition: The Khojkī Script. This paper seeks to problematize the view that the Khojkī Script of the Ismāʿīlīs did not survive beyond the closing decades of the 20th century. As such, this paper examines the continued use of Khojkī by the Ismāʿīlīs of Sindh, Pakistan, following the period—1970s onwards—which is supposed to be the one in which it declined utterly. In this paper, I argue that the manner in which Khojkī’s decline is conceived by scholars represents an educated elite or institutional perspective, which overlooks certain complex realities that can only be deciphered by analyzing the Ismāʿīlī laypersons’ perspective. I maintain, throughout the essay, that there is a need to revisit our conventions about the script’s decline. Drawing chiefly upon manuscript evidence, and ethnographic fieldwork, which I did within the Ismāʿīlī communities of the modern-day province of Sindh, Pakistan, this article counters a general scholastic viewpoint that the khojkī script is no more a ‘living script’. In fact, the Ismāʿīlīs of Sindh and beyond, who are well-versed in the script, continue to reproduce their religious literature, namely, the Gināns, and much more, in it. This paper demonstrates how, in new ways, the Khojkī script has paved its way well into the 21st century and will continue to do so in the years to come in the lives of the Ismāʿīlīs.